Re: A NEW TOPIC (you can read this)

Subject: Re: A NEW TOPIC (you can read this)
From: nancy ott <ott -at- ANSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 28 Apr 1993 16:04:43 EDT

> I have been in the technical writing field about a year now. I would like
> to ask some other writers out in the *real world* about the cultural
> that you have experienced.

> The tech writing team where I work is composed of two other women. We deal
> mostly with men engineers. I am curious if any of the other women
> technical writers have had a difficult time getting respect from their
> male co-workers (writers or otherwise). We have found that is difficult to
> communicate the idea that we are writers -- not "typers"

> I don't want this to turn into a battle of the sexes -- I would like to get
> some valuable insight from some of you who have been in the *real world*.

I am in a somewhat similar situation. I lead an all-female
documentation group working with an all-male software development
group. I haven't encountered many gender-related problems here, but
most of the developers are in their 20's and early 30's -- they're
used to working with women on an equal basis, and don't automatically
assume that we're all secretaries.

As for being accepted as a professional, I've found that if you act
professionally, others will treat you professionally. Take the time
to learn how to use the product -- and more importantly, to understand
how it works. Try to ask intelligent questions. (Save your "dumb"
questions for people who won't look down on you for asking them. This
is known as developing your sources.) Don't let people brush you off;
if the engineer doesn't want to talk to you now, set up a time when
you both can get together. His time is important, but so is yours.
Be persistent. All of this is just part of doing the job.

You don't say how your writing team fits in with the structure of the
company. Are you in the same department as engineering, or are you in
a different part of the heirarchy? You may want to talk to the
engineering manager about being more involved with the engineering
team. See if you can sit in on some of the product development
meetings, especially ones that involve decisions that affect
documentation. Try to get in on the information flow and keep on top
of the latest changes in the product.

Have you completed a major document yet? Or have the engineers just
seen drafts? One reason why they treat you as a typist may be that
they don't realize what a complicated, tough job it is to produce a
set of documentation! :-) A little self-promotion can go a long way.
Keep people informed about what you're doing. I've found that simply
bringing new documentation to a meeting and showing it to everyone
generates a lot of respectful comments. People will be impressed if
you've done a good job, and they'll remember it.

Above all, don't trivialize your job -- the user manuals are as much a
part of the product as the product itself. Documenting a product can
be as difficult and time-consuming as designing it. When the
engineers you work with realize that your job is as demanding as
theirs, their attitude towards you will improve.

Good luck.

nancy ott | The master documents by not-documenting.
ott -at- ansoft -dot- com | - The Tao of Technical Writing

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